Luci Baines Johnson Reflects on Kennedy Assassination

By CBS News

Published 11/17 2013 02:33PM

Updated 11/21 2013 09:15AM

(CBSNews) -- Luci Baines Johnson, the daughter of Lyndon Johnson, was just 16 years old when her father became president in the wake of President John F. Kennedy's death. She was in Spanish class at the National Cathedral School in Washington when she heard that Kennedy had been shot - but she had no idea if her own parents were alright.

"No one ever said a word about my father or mother. No one said a word period," said Johnson, who spoke publicly about her memories of the day Kennedy was assassinated for the first time on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday. "Then we were dismissed. And I wandered out into the quadrangle of the school in a daze.... I looked over and saw that the Secret Service had very thoughtfully sent a man I knew, one of my father's detail - and I turned and ran in the other direction as if I could run away from the inevitable. And of course, I wasn't capable of outrunning a secret service agent."

She learned shortly after that her father and mother were fine, but the Johnsons' lives changed forever that day. Luci Baines Johnson described her father as "strong and steady, determined to do the right thing. Measured when all the rest of the world was in a state of great trauma."

"I think he knew that indeed, an evil person had killed our president, but it was his responsibility to show the world that they couldn't kill our country," Johnson said. "And so the continuity of serving the American people must go on. And that was, I think, his every moment."

The move to the White House was especially difficult for the family, since they had to move on December 7 - the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Johnson described hearing a rare argument between her parents over whether they could move on that day, which was convenient for both Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the Secret Service. Her father insisted that they go ahead with the move.

In the weeks following the assassination, she would attend the funeral and adjust to a new life. "We were just consumed in pain," she said. Fifty years later, the events of Nov. 22, 1963, have stayed with her.

"It was all so terribly personal," Luci Baines Johnson said. "Obviously, the people that it affected most of all were Mrs. Kennedy and her family. And the rest of us were simply a backdrop, feeling their pain and wanting to comfort them, and knowing that they couldn't. But for me, it was a moment that changed my world for always. It was a day that will ring with pain and respect for as long as I live."

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